A loving approach to the world and its people requires open eyes that are near and far sighted. Having knowledge of the current reality most closely around us in our homes is the beginning. Looking out into our own cities and communities should be something we are always intentionally doing. And seeking an understanding of what is happening globally ties it all together. Because the recognition of our connectedness to every human and belonging to each other is the foundation of knowing what loving God and His world looks like.
OUR HOMES. When questioned about joining her in her work, Mother Teresa would often direct people to their homes. She would encourage them to find their own “Calcutta.” In doing so, she emphasized that each person has a ministry that begins where they find themselves most often. Who we are in our homes often has ripple effects in various ways. What we say in the kitchen could make its way to the dinner table. How we say goodnight to our children could make its way into our breakfast. How a family interacts in the morning before they all go their separate ways could set everyone on the path to who they are the rest of the day, for everyone they meet.
Being a servant of God to my father is often harder than being a servant to a stranger. What’s hard, though, is not impossible. Practicing being our most true selves in Christ with those closest to us will strengthen the fruitfulness of those relationships. When we are at peace and truly serving our friends and families, people outside our inner circles are better served. I want to be aware of what my sister is experiencing so I can serve her actual needs, and therefore better serve my coworkers and strangers. I want to make sure that my love for my mother shows up in the simplest ways, so that her offering to us doesn’t become a chore. Being open to the current state of those you spend the most time with will allow you to exist in a constant state of awareness of yourself and who you are for others. This has potential to be fruitful in ways that cannot be imagined.
OUR COMMUNITIES. When Mother Teresa looked out her window to see the poor in the street, she couldn’t help but be drawn to them. Christ called her to live with them and care for them. She sought to be able to do that at all costs. Awareness of what’s happening in the city we are a member of is crucial to awareness of who we are. As Mother Teresa was called to serve in a specific way, so too are we. The address on our home makes us part of a greater community. This community we live in has its own set of challenges and concerns. Who we are in and for that community is crucial to it’s overall health and growth.
Where each of us is called in our own community is a personal discovery process. Where is your heart being pulled? What is the thing that brings you joy or breaks your heart when you hear about it? We should pay attention to the things that keep coming up and drawing us in. And not be afraid to seek to know the full story of our city. There is much going on behind the surface that we might want to avoid. The reality is that, at some point, it’s likely that each of us will either be part of the story we’re trying to avoid or find out in a way that pulls you in without much choice. Take your address seriously. You don’t have to love everything about where you live to love the people that live where you are.
OUR WORLD. We currently find ourselves in an experience that every person, worldwide, is included in. What’s important to embrace is that with this common experience comes very different challenges. Mother Teresa found herself in the slums of Calcutta. Just inches away from the impoverished people she was caring for were elite families who were privileged to have an education and food in abundance. Although our circumstances might be different, our humanity equalizes us. Our pain brings us together, regardless of what causes it. Our laughter unites us, although the source of it may be different. Our need for community and the same basic necessities makes us able to serve each other through whatever the current struggle is.
Being aware of what’s happening thousands of miles away from us takes effort and intention. Seeking to remain connected to realities we may never experience allows us to live more faithfully in our own reality. Each of us is one person who deeply matters to the greater experience of all. What I do in my own life, however small it seems, travels far beyond what I’m able to see. Being faithful where you are will be multiplied by God. And understanding the greater experience of the world may be what makes you aware of where God needs you to go. I may be called to intentionally serve beyond my borders. Or, something I learn about what’s happening far away may be what makes me better at being where I am.
Wherever you find yourself, connectedness is not defined by physical proximity. I will be better for you right here and now if I am aware of the bigger story that we are a part of. First, “find your own Calcutta,” then remember that Calcutta exists. Let the stories you discover form your heart, not overwhelm it. Our heads shouldn’t be spinning because the world is. Be faithful where you are and strive to see beyond what is near.